Young People's Mental Health Is Deteriorating, Computer Games Could Help: Study

There’s a crisis in teen mental health, and a study says that computer games can help make adolescents more resilient.

Based on data provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there’s been a marked increase in mental illness, sadness, and teen hopelessness, exacerbated by the impact of COVID-19 over the last two years.

Schools in different countries are exploring different ways to help young people. However, a recent UK-based research project has suggested that the universal, one-size-fits-all approach to mindfulness training that schools are using doesn’t work.

The project suggested better alternatives, like using sport, art, music, and even playing computer games.

Published in the journal Evidence-Based Mental Health, the study involved 28,500 children, 50 teachers, and 100 schools, and looked at the impact of mindfulness training over 8 years. The researchers found that the technique didn’t help the mental health and well-being of adolescents aged 11-14. The authors then suggested that other options should be tried to teach mindfulness.

"Adolescence is an absolutely crucial time of development. The brain goes through important and fundamental changes in adolescence that set the trajectory for people's lives,” said Willem Kuyken, the Sir John Ritblat Family Foundation Professor of Mindfulness and Psychological Science at the University of Oxford and one of the lead researchers involved in the project.

Per the researchers, teaching mindfulness skills to adolescents would be a way to “nip mental health problems in the bud.” However, the approach used by schools is not feasible.

The researchers suggested peer-based approaches to teaching mindfulness and other vehicles more in tune with what adolescents are familiar with today. They include music, arts, sports, and computer gaming — a medium that has made leaps and bounds in delivering lessons and ideas that are otherwise too hard to understand on paper.

"We are not saying that all mindfulness training has to stop. But schools do need to look and see how it's being received in your school. Students are often the best experts on what works for them in this area. So do the young people in your school enjoy it?” said Mark Williams, a professor emeritus and founding director of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre at the University of Oxford.

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